Three Tibetans have set themselves on fire in the troubled county of Serthar (in Chinese, Seda) in China's Sichuan province, the latest in a series of self-immolations against Chinese rule, sources said Saturday.
News of the self-immolations in a remote village in Serthar on Friday surfaced only a day later due to a clampdown in communications by Chinese authorities following a string of bloody protests a week ago.
“On Feb. 3, three Tibetans self-immolated in protest against Chinese policy at a place called Phuwu in Serthar and one of them died," an exile source told RFA. The area is near the border with Sichuan's neighboring Qinghai province, the source said.
"This area is far from the main Serthar county town. The survivors are seriously injured though the details are difficult to obtain due to the shutting down of communication lines in the area," another source said.
"However, [in the protests] they had called for freedom for Tibet and the return of the Dalai Lama."
A third source also confirmed the self-immolations, the number of which has climbed to 20 since February 2009 amid growing tensions in Tibetan regions of China where people have been protesting against Beijing's rule and calling for the return of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader.
The identity of the person who perished in the self-immolation could not be immediately confirmed but the two who were seriously injured were Tsaptsai Tsering, 60, and Kyarel, 30, sources told RFA.
Serthar was among three counties in Sichuan province where Tibetans protested against Chinese rule last week in which rights and exile groups believe at least six were killed and 60 injured, some critically. The other counties were Draggo (in Chinese, Luhuo) and Dzamthang (in Chinese, Rangtang).
Official Chinese media reported only two Tibetans were killed after "mobs" armed with, guns, knives and stones attacked local police.
Chinese authorities have ramped up security across Tibetan areas—from Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, to the Amdo and Kham regions—following the protests, according to sources.
Telephone links to the protest areas have also been mostly cut and more than a 100 protesters have been detained, some sources said.
Tensions in the Tibet Autonomous Region and in Tibetan-populated areas in China's provinces have not subsided since anti-China protests swept through the Tibetan Plateau in March 2008.
Chinese authorities have blamed the Dalai Lama for the tense situation, saying he is encouraging the self-immolations, which run contrary to Buddhist teachings.
But the Dalai Lama blamed China's "ruthless and illogical" policy toward Tibet.
He called on the Chinese government to change its "repressive" policies in Tibet, citing the crackdown on monasteries and policies curtailing the use of the Tibetan language.
Reported by Lobsang Sherab, Tenzin Wangyal, and Kunsang Tenzin for RFA's Tibetan service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.